Sunday, May 20, 2007
Here's a secret about me, folks. I actually like baseball. The real game of base ball, not the bloated, lethargic, scandal-ridden travesty that is MLB. What I like even better than baseball is movies about baseball. This time of year, I like to rent things like Eight Men Out, Major League (the first one, although in a pinch, I will watch the second one), The Babe, The Natural and of course, the immortal Bull Durham.
Remember in Bull Durham when Susan Sarandon's character, Annie Savoy, reads Walt Whitman? "I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us." He was right then, and his words still hold true today. Baseball represents much of what is good and wholesome and innocent about America. I identify strongly with the simple truths of baseball. Again, quoting from BD, it's a very simple game: you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. All of life should be so easy, and what's not to love?
Unfortunately, MLB has turned this delightfully simple game into Massive Lurching Business, with the main objective no longer being a contest between 18 men armed with leather gloves and bats, but a high-stakes game of screw-your-neighbor in which organized gangs attempt to separate fans from their money by selling them $7 beers, $80 tickets, $120 replica jerseys. The proceeds of these go to pay the overinflated salaries of stellar "role models" such as Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Mark McGwire and the ilk. When these guys aren't making headlines for winning games, they're making them for testifying about drug use, or being busted for DUI, or for merely signing a new multi-million dollar contract for simply throwing, catching and hitting a ball.
Hey, nice work if you can get it.
But still, I like baseball. And I like going to games. Where I live, we have a rather good AAA team, and on a nice warm spring day, going out to see a game is a beautiful thing. We are also fortunate to have one of what is the most beautiful ballparks in minor-league baseball -- AutoZone Park. This green urban jewel smack in the downtown area shines with grace and dignity. It was built in harmony with the historic buildings surrounding it, and was designed with hard-core fans and casual family attendees in mind as well. There's plenty to do for groups with children, but just sitting in a row seat under the first deck, watching a young pitcher with a 91 mph fastball is truly a thing of beauty.
This was the first game we saw this season, and the impetus was actually the opening act. Another secret about me is that I'm an absolute patriot and a sucker for our National Anthem. I'm very happy and relieved to have been born in this wonderful country, and the Anthem brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it performed in public. Today was an extra-special rendition, because it was a choir of schoolchildren that just happened to include Dear Daughter.
Now, she was behind home plate in a group of about 30 children, so perhaps it was just my imagination that I could hear her sweet little voice ringing out on "the land of the free-eee!!!" but then again, maybe it wasn't. It was a great moment for both of us.
Best Friend of Dear Daughter went with us to the game. We stayed until just before the seventh inning, so we had to sing the stretch in the parking garage. It was a beautiful day in the sun with two of my favorite girls watching a game played by men still young enough and hungry enough to love it. It was--all in all--a beautiful thing.